4906.0 - Personal Safety, Australia, 2016  
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EXPERIENCE OF VIOLENCE

This chapter provides an overview of men’s and women’s experience of violence in the 12 months prior to the survey and since the age of 15. This includes changes in prevalence rates over time, demographic information about persons who experienced violence, and the relationship of the respondent to the perpetrator(s).

WHAT TYPES OF VIOLENCE ARE INCLUDED IN THE PERSONAL SAFETY SURVEY?

The Personal Safety Survey defines violence as any incident involving the occurrence, attempt or threat of either physical or sexual assault experienced by a person since the age of 15.

Violence can be broken down into two main categories, physical violence and sexual violence.

Physical violence: is defined as the occurrence, attempt or threat of physical assault experienced by a person since the age of 15. There are two components of physical violence:

    • Physical assault: any incident that involved the use of physical force with the intent to harm or frighten a person.
    • Physical threat: any attempt to inflict physical harm, or a threat or suggestions of intent to inflict physical harm, which was made face-to-face and which the person believed was able and likely to be carried out.

Sexual violence: is defined as the occurrence, attempt or threat of sexual assault experienced by a person since the age of 15. There are two components of sexual violence:
    • Sexual assault: an act of a sexual nature carried out against a person's will through the use of physical force, intimidation or coercion, including any attempts to do this. This includes rape, attempted rape, aggravated sexual assault (assault with a weapon), indecent assault, penetration by objects, forced sexual activity that did not end in penetration and attempts to force a person into sexual activity. Incidents so defined would be an offence under state and territory criminal law.
    • Sexual threat: the threat of acts of a sexual nature that were made face-to-face where the person believed it was able to and likely to be carried out.

Respondents are asked if they have ever experienced physical assault, physical threat, sexual assault and sexual threat by a man and/or a woman, resulting in eight sub-categories of violence.

Breakdown of violence types collected in the PSS

PSS 2016 Tree Diagram Breakdown of violence types collected in the PSS

Additionally, the PSS asked respondents about their experiences of violence since the age of 15 by different male and female perpetrator types, including stranger, current and previous partner, boyfriend, girlfriend or date, and other known person.


MEASURING MULTIPLE INCIDENTS AND MULTIPLE TYPES OF VIOLENCE

A key objective of the PSS is to measure the prevalence of violence in Australia. Prevalence refers to the number and proportion (rate) of persons in a given population that have experienced any type of violence within a specified timeframe.

The counting unit in the PSS is always persons and not incidents. While some basic information is collected about the frequency of partner violence, the PSS cannot determine the exact number of times a respondent has experienced violence. Instead, the PSS provides information about whether a respondent has ever experienced violence since the age of 15 by a male or female perpetrator.

Where a person has experienced more than one type of violence, they are counted separately for each type of violence they experience but are only counted once in the aggregated totals. Components therefore may not add to the totals. For example, if a person has experienced both physical assault by a stranger and an incident of physical assault by their current partner, they would be counted against each type of violence by type of perpetrator (i.e. physical assault by a stranger and physical assault by a current partner) but they would only be counted once in the total for those who had experienced physical assault.

In addition, where a single incident of violence involved more than one of the different types of violence the incident of violence is only counted once. For example, if a person is physically assaulted during or as part of a sexual assault, this would be counted once only as a sexual assault. The primary type of violence for the incident is based on the ordering of the questionnaire and the perception of the respondent. Incidents of sexual assault and threat were asked before physical assault and threat with the latter questions asking respondents not to re-report any incidents already mentioned.

For more details, refer to the Violence - Prevalence page in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0.55.003).